Cold War Essay
How important was the Sovietisation of Eastern Europe as a cause of the Cold War? The Sovietisation of Eastern Europe, though a significant factor for the cause of the Cold War, was still not the most important impetus of all. Even though the imperialist intent of the Sovietisation of Eastern Europe prompted the USA to come up with the Containment Policy that led to the conflicts, it was still the misunderstanding and mistrust from both superpowers which aggravated the progress and tensions of the Cold War.
The Sovietisation of Eastern Europe was viewed by USA as expansionistic and hence, is one of the causes of the Cold War. The Soviet Union used the strategy “what we have, we hold”, creating satellite states while occupying previously held German areas, intimidating other parties away and allowing communist parties into power, creating the phenomenon “Slicing of the Salami”. One example was Poland, where Polish Stalinist leader Boleslaw Bierut who removed much opposition by ordering the arrest of Poles who opposed the new Communist government.
The Sovietisation of Eastern Europe is a notable factor as it increased USSR’s political, economic and military power by uniting other Eastern European states into a political and economic bloc against USA, mainly to spread Communism to Europe. The USA assumed it as purely Communist Imperialism, and that USSR was highly sensitive to the logic of force and perceived itself to be perpetually at war with democracy. The USA had failed to note that another reason of the Sovietisation of Eastern Europe was a form of security buffer against USA for Russia.
This led to mistrust, suspicion and hostility. Hence this resulted in mounting tensions between both superpowers, and is a factor to the Cold War. The Marshall Plan was also one of the main reasons to the cause of the Cold War. It was an economic plan by the USA to provide Europe, including Russia, with the means to overcome economic adversities after the war, with the intent to prevent poor, devastated countries from turning to Communism and hence, keeping Communist influence in check.
For example, up till 1953, US$12,721 million was sent to Europe in cash and kind, and France and Britain received the most. The Marshall Plan, though USA insisted that was directed purely on post war hunger, poverty and chaos, was interpreted by the USSR as a form of exploitation and an attempt to buy allies with money. Thus this worsened relations between USA and USSR, contributing to the development of the Cold War as it triggered a response from the USSR, which was the COMECON. The COMECON was the Soviets’ response to USA’s Marshall Plan and also a contributor to the Cold War.
By COMECON, the Soviet Union formed a political and economic bloc in which member states ignored the market economy and exchange rates in favour of barter trade, creating some measure of trade stability within the region. For example, oil and natural gas were traded among member states at below-market equivalent prices, partially to support the fragile economies of satellite states and also as a reward for compliance with Moscow. The COMECON was seen by the USA as an backward-looking attempt to spread Communism influence in Eastern Europe and garner support to counter the USA’s market economy.
Therefore this increased hostility between USA and USSR as economic and ideological rivals, and thus leading to the progress of the Cold War. The Berlin Blockade was a direct aggression of USSR against USA due to the conflict of currency reform in Germany, which heightened tensions between both superpowers and was the climax of the Cold War. The Soviets cut off key freight links to West Berlin, and later all traffic and essential supplies, to show that they would not tolerate USA’s attempt to create economic stability using a new currency, the Deutsche Mark.
The Berlin Blockade was an important cause of the Cold War as the goal of the Soviets was to starve West Berlin, an Allied country, into submission to Communism, and was seen by the USA as a direct threat to their own survival. Hence the aggressive nature of the blockade prompted a response from the USA, the Berlin Airlift, which was also USA’s way of directly challenging USSR’s limits of tolerance, which nearly escalated the Cold War into a breakout of a hot war. The Berlin Airlift was an equally agressive response of the USA to USSR’s Berlin Blockade.
With West Berlin having only one month’s worth of supplies and the USSR adamant in the blockade of land traffic, the Allies resorted to delivering the supplies using planes. This brought about an advantage of bypassing land traffic. Furthermore the USA was confident that Stalin was not prepared for an open military conflict by shooting down the planes, which was true. The Berlin Airlift had a significant impact on the progress of the Cold War as it was deeply humiliating for the Soviets and was a political and social victory for the USA.
Such an outcome made the USSR ever more determined to keep its sector of Germany Communist, which made the initial plan of both superpowers on a unified Germany impossible. On the other hand, the USA became very wary of the USSR’s actions and motives, given that the USSR had broken their own agreements on allowing traffic in and out of West Berlin. Hence this deepened both sides’ mistrust and hostility towards each other and increased each power’s determination to hold on to and promote their own ideologies and curb the influence of the other, which helped the progress of the Cold War.
In conclusion, even though the Sovietisation of Eastern Europe added to the rising tensions that led to the development of Cold War, it was still the misunderstanding, misperception and the mistrust of both superpowers that led to a spate of events that encouraged further progress into the Cold War. The USA saw USSR expansionism as totally impervious to the logic of reason and in a state of perpetual war against capitalism and democracy.
To the USA, the Soviet Union could not understand the possibility for peaceful or non volatile co-existence, and would take advantage of any reduction in conflict to expand forcibly. Hence the USA conducted itself in the belief that they would never be able to cooperate harmoniously with the USSR and thus came up with the Containment Policy. However the Sovietisation of Eastern Europe was actually not purely Imperialist, it was also partly as a security buffer against USA. In reality, having different experiences and ideologies, both superpowers had different visions for the post war world.
While Stalin was suffering from the Babarossa Syndrome and became paranoid in relations with USA, the USA held a strong belief in the Long Telegram, thus leading to the progress of the Containment Policy and later the rolling back of Communism, and USSR’s counter attacks. This polarised superpower relations and precluded any sort of friendly relations for years. Therefore it was more of the misunderstanding and mistrust of both superpowers than simply the Sovietisation of Eastern Europe that is the most important factor of the Cold War.
Subject: Cold War,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 2 November 2016
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